Home » Amazon, Ebook Borrowing/Lending, Ebooks, Kindle » Self-Published Authors Invited to the Kindle Owners Lending Library

Self-Published Authors Invited to the Kindle Owners Lending Library

19 November 2011

Passive Guy has blogged about the Kindle Owners Lending Library for Prime members several times. Here’s the first. Search for Kindle Lending to see a lot more.

Several indie authors complained that this Lending Library was apparently limited to traditionally-published books because it was a great opportunity to promote their books. In a comment to one blog post, Joe Konrath said he would “PAY Amazon to get into a situation where they gave away my books for free.”

PG has just received a confidential tip that Amazon is privately inviting self-published authors to join this library.

Here is part of what the tipster said:

I got a call from a woman who works at Amazon’s KDP. She made me an offer that sounded good at first. But by the end of our conversation I realize that offer was a complete ripoff. She said they are offering this to individuals privately until December 1, when they will go public.

Here’s their offer: If I agree to make my ebooks available exclusively in the Kindle store and participate in the Kindle Lending Library, I will earn fees from a fund they have set aside ($500,000 for the first five months).

This sounded interesting at first, until I realized that nobody would ever borrow one of my books from the Kindle Lending Library. You have to be an Amazon Prime member and you can only “check out” one ebook per month.

If someone wants to read one of my books, priced at $2.99, and they also want to read another book priced at $9.99, whose book are they going to borrow? The one priced at $9.99, of course.

Sure, they might still buy my book. But if they really want my book, they will buy it anyway. Meantime, I wouldn’t get one penny of the $500,000, and I wouldn’t get anything from B&N, Apple, Sony, Kobo, etc.

PG both disagrees and agrees with his source.

The major promotional benefit from the Kindle Library is that readers are given a chance to sample an author’s book. If they enjoy the free book in the library, they’re likely to purchase at least one and probably more than one of the author’s other books. This works particularly well with series books.

While PG understands the $9.99 vs. $2.99 concern, even if only a few Prime members sample a $2.99 book, an indie author should still see the follow-on sales effect.

Where PG agrees with his confidential friend is that it’s a risky idea for an indie author to pull his/her ebooks down from other online bookstores.

Generally speaking, most authors generate most ebook sales from Amazon, but there are many exceptions. Ebook sales can also come in spurts, particularly from some of the smaller online sellers. If the Kobo Fantasy Book Club falls in love with your urban vampire Canadian cozy mystery featuring a dragon who sips tea, you may get some very nice sales there.

On the other hand, there’s the $100,000 per month fund that will be split, presumably among participating indie authors only.

PG will put on his lawyer’s hat for a moment.

There’s a contract somewhere in this offer. A few of the questions PG would want the contract to answer are:

  • Can I pull my book out of the Kindle Lending Program at any time? If not, what’s my minimum time commitment?
  • Once my book is out of the Lending Program, are there any restrictions to prevent me from immediately re-publishing it on other online book stores?
  • Does joining the Lending Program prevent me from unpublishing my book on Amazon per the KDP Publishing Terms and Conditions? Or switching to a 35% royalty to get out of the lending program? If I unpublish, can I republish? How soon can I republish? If I switch royalty rates, how soon can I go back to 70%?
  • How is the $100,000 per month incentive payment going to be divided? Is it only for indie authors?
  • Will I receive reports on how often my book is borrowed?
  • Can I select which book or books are included in the Lending Program? Can I change my selection(s)?

PG understands that Amazon is always looking for competitive advantages for its ebooks. However, although he’s happy to be convinced otherwise, PG thinks the Amazon-exclusive part of this program is a needless complication that will make indie authors suspicious about the deal.

Finally, the requirement that an author remove ebooks from other sites is apparently being imposed only on self-pubbed authors. PG just checked the Nook Store and all the traditionally-published ebooks he checked that are part of the Kindle Owners Lending Library are still available for the Nook. Ditto for the Kobo store.

This distinction will not sit well with many indie authors.

CAUTION: PG would not have posted this if he did not believe the story to be accurate. However, for obvious reasons, he has not been able to check this with Amazon, so realize there may be some inaccuracies.

Amazon, Ebook Borrowing/Lending, Ebooks, Kindle

23 Comments to “Self-Published Authors Invited to the Kindle Owners Lending Library”

  1. I’m interested, for sure. I’d want to see the contract though. I’d *probably* volunteer the contract for a certain contract collection, y’know, just because… 😉

    The points PG raises are all excellent ones. What happens if more than $100,000 worth of books are downloaded in a given month? If Amazon sells a couple million Fires in December (which all come with that free month of Prime), they could get a couple million free ebook downloads from those alone. If they get a rush of indie books into the Lending Library in December, that could easily end up with a quarter million or more indie downloads in the month after, which could easily end up being over $100k in royalties owed.

    So I’d be very curious how disbursement is being handled.

    The exclusivity deal is another sticky wicket.

    That said, I’d probably be willing to reduce income (say, earn half my regular royalty) on ebooks given via the lending system if each loan made boosted my ranking position (which seems to maybe be the case for other books already in the lending system?). And if I had a dozen+ books up already, I’d probably be willing to completely forgo royalties on one book to get it into their library as a promotion, because good downloads of that book would probably boost sales of the others.

  2. Yes, since I’m owner of a non-Kindle ereader, the “exclusive” line rang alarm bells for me immediately.

    I really hate Amazon’s ebook policy of trying to lock everyone to only them. I’m considering trying to find other online shops to replace Amazon for my purchases of print books, electronics, and MP3 downloads, that’s how aggravating I find it.

    • Oh, hai, Anke! Fancy meeting you here!

      Yeah, “exclusivity” made me make -_- faces at the screen. Smashwords — including their take from Apple, B&N, Sony, and maybe even Kobo — has paid me Dinner Money already (and is close to another payout, I think, once B&N and Sony cough up their share). Amazon, who thinks I should be charging 2.99 for a short story (of 4K words? really??), hasn’t paid me anything yet, despite similar sales.

      [Edit: I am being snarky that a 99c short story only makes 35% royalties from Amazon, while it will net me at least another 20-odd cents from Smashwords, after PayPal takes its cut, and up to 84c after PayPal’s cut.]

      I think I’ll stay a midlist fish in many ponds, personally.

  3. I like your lawyer hat questions.

    The “Amazon Exclusive” angle would make it an automatic no-go for me. However, now that raises a nice point to speculate on (always a pointless yet fun exercise), “In the near future, is Amazon going to change its self-pub terms so that you must be part of the lending library? If so, will they compensate you the same way they are compensating traditional publishers, or will availability in the library with no royalties to the author be part of the TOS agreement? And will they go so far as to place another requirement that you must make your book Amazon available only?”

    If I were to guess, I would say the first one is almost a guarantee. The second one is also a good bet, especially with those like Konrath making statements about paying Amazon for the privilege. The third one… well… they’ve already started making tiny forays into this area with the phone call listed above, and I’ve always found that once tiny pushes start, it’s only a matter of time before they start delving head-long in that direction.

    • This sounds like more “sky is falling” stuff, Danielle.

      I don’t think Amazon is likely to force inclusion of books in the program without recompense. That doesn’t make sense; publishers want money for their books, regardless how they get in front of readers. And I’d be shocked if they tried to force all KDP books into being Amazon-only. I just don’t see it happening.

      You’re forgetting that a bucketload of small to mid sized publishers use KDP, too, I think. They’re simply not going to accept terms that are that unfavorable.

      And any attempt to stick self publishers with a lesser deal will simply result in self publishers banding together to form new publishing companies to get whatever deal the other small presses are.

      No, I think that any deal involving an “Amazon exclusive” is going to have to give the publisher a serious carrot in return. Addition to the lending library is a carrot, if the terms are right – it could be a great promotional tool. But Amazon knows they have a good thing going. They’re unlikely to mess it up by creating a situation where people no longer want to sell books on their site.

  4. The tipster is missing a few key points, which I’m not currently at liberty to discuss.

    But I don’t think I’m breaking any confidences when I say that Amazon wants very much to make this a good deal for both customers and authors.

    There’s a whole level here that both your tipster and you aren’t addressing. Think. Think hard. There is real potential here to make a whole lot of money, if an author plays it right…

    • Is there any reason to assume all self-published authors would get the same deal?

    • Hmmm….
      Having multiple (ha, many!) books for sale and only using the first book of your epic (as in at least 2 dozen books) series would be kinda obvious. 😉

      More realistically, having control over which titles are going to be used would really help the author to deliberately push books.

    • I’m glad to hear that, Joe.

      • My only concern is the predetermined $500,000 amount–that’s enough to keep maybe 50 frugal authors alive for five months. It’s not enough to help hundreds of writers make a living. But I only know what I see on television, and I see tons of people happily giving their books away for free already.

  5. If the exclusivity aspect is thrown out, I see a lot of authors wanting to try this. I know I would.

  6. I see only the upside of this. Message to Amazon: call me. Please. Now.

  7. Unlike Konrath, I have no particular insider info on this. However, I have been working with Amazon since 1996 when my first book was published. I’ve had just about every kind of Amazon account you could have in the past 15 years. Every step Amazon has taken and every “new deal” they have offered to indie- and self-published authors has been met with skepticism and doomsday thinking.

    And yet, as the details emerged and the dust settled, we have always come out ahead with options that just didn’t exist previously. Sometimes, there have been false starts, but course corrections have always resolved the major concerns.

    Amazon has not only been a consistent friend of ours but has actually fueled the boom in indie and self-publishing. I am quite willing just to relax and wait. I feel confident that we will all gain in the end.

    • I don’t have your length of experience with Amazon but my observation has been exactly that. Authors keep expecting Amazon to do something terrible to us and so far it just hasn’t happened as far as I can tell.

      As far as this particular instance, they haven’t asked me but if they did… I would so be there. After I asked PG’s questions. 😉

  8. TY PG for asking my question. Will the author choose which books to include in the program. If yes, then full speed ahead. If not, then not so much.

    On Christmas Day 2010 I sold 121 copies of my middle reader book Summer Horse at BN. These backlist books of mine continue to be strong sellers at BN while languishing at Amazon. I wouldn’t be thrilled if I had to pull all my books off BN right now. Maybe that situation changes greatly with the $79 Kindle and the Fire but we don’t know.

    There are too many unknowns for me right now but, gee, if Joe Konrath is so positive, it’s rather difficult to think of dismissing the offer no matter what it is.

  9. Can I get in if I pay Penguin $500?

  10. If I could still epub everywhere else, I would love to put ALL my books and stories up for lending. I think it would be a great marketing tool, like the public libraries.
    An exclusivity clause in the contact would be a deal breaker.
    It’ll be interesting to see how this all works out.

  11. I would love for Amazon to put my books up front and personal to its millions of readers but I don’t like the exclusitivy clause. My books have always sold best at Amazon but I do make sales at other sites.

  12. One of my major issues with exclusivity is that I have a decent number of readers who fall in Amazon’s surcharge zone.

    For those who don’t know what that is, Amazon slaps a $2 surcharge on most e-book purchases (some slip the net) if the customer is based outside of the countries with a Kindle Store, plus Ireland, Canada, Australia & New Zealand. This charge is nothing to do with taxes, and is levied by Amazon and kept by Amazon.

    That’s most of the world, by the way. I direct those readers to Smashwords and elsewhere. I don’t know if I could sign an exclusivity deal that would force them to pay $2 more per book unless some compromise could be reached there.

  13. Being a user of Prime….

    I gotta say that the “Prime” deals are all hard as heck to browse through. And they don’t seem to use the algorithms to help you find the videos you’d most like, either.

    So… whoever above mentioned concerns about being “low man” on the lending totem pole, while losing out on income from other vendors: that was right on the money.

    I make nearly half my money elsewhere. Even if one of JK’s non-disclosible items were a healthy advance, I couldn’t do this one.

    Lending would be great, but it would shrink the internet “footprint” of those of us who are lesser known. Some of us need a greater presence, not a lesser one.

  14. Is it possible that Amazon has to require exclusivity in order to avoid contractual conflicts with other etailers? I’m thinking this may be the case since it also cannot include Big Six publishers’ titles, because those publishers set their own e-book prices, the way self-published authors do.

    I wrote up the news at paidContent (http://paidcontent.org/article/419-amazon-taps-self-published-authors-for-kindle-owners-lending-library/) and am interested to follow the story–thanks for posting, Passive Guy.

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